Dir: Viktor Oszkar Nagy. Hungary. 2009. 80mins.
Despite its shortcomings, this debut about an ex-convict's attempts to reconcile with his rebellious son from Viktor Ozkar Nagy is a visual treat. Showing remarkable precision and sensitivity in every frame, the minimalist film will find a natural berth in first film festivals and events focusing on the image. It won the Gene Moskowitz prize, awarded by foreign film critics, at the recent Hungarian Film Week.
Touching on a vast array of themes from Oedipal complexes to police corruption, the film follows a man (Derzsi) who returns home after a long spell in prison. His son (Ravasz) won't forgive him for getting sent to jail and abandoning his family and sees him as the cause of his mother's death. Few words are exchanged but the animosity between the pair is plain. Things get worse when the father gets together with his late wife's sister Agi (Nagy) and then forces his son to work on a piece of land which he intends to turn into a vineyard. The son's physical attraction to his aunt only complicates matters.
When his father refuses to finish with Agi, the son vents his anger by teaming up with the thief who got his father sent to jail. Events escalate to the brink of patricide.
Although Nagy keeps explanations to a minimum, it's plain that the taciturn father loves his son but is unable to show his feelings. Everything he does is motivated by his desire for his son to have a better future. Their dependence on the environment is starkly drawn - the unyeilding earth that resists any attempt at cultivation - but there's also a promise of better things in the shape of the highway being built in a nearby valley.
Although the film succeeds much better visually than narratively - one can't help but wonder if the individual shots were thought up first and a plot was then woven to hold them together - the intensity of the film can't be denied. The confrontations between father and son are powerfully played by Derzsi and the photogenic Ravasz.
Spectacular lighting by Tamas Dobos with perfectly chosen colours and compositions - one shot of the son sitting on his bed with the light source behind his head is particularly breathtaking - makes this worthy of comparison to the best Hungarian film cinematography.
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Viktor Oszkar Nagy
Viktor Oszkar Nagy